Isn't lobbying a bad thing in politics?
Normally the term “lobbying” has a negative connotation. We think of big industries and corporations paying high-priced establishment types to try and influence and pressure politicians to enact legislation that benefits them. But as a citizen lobbyist, it really just means making your voice heard in an effective way to influence legislation, advocate for laws that benefit yourself, your values/liberty and your community, and try to block legislation that harms those things. Federal level politicians are more difficult to influence without a massive movement of similar messaging, but the farther down the “food chain” you go (ie, state senator, state representative, county commissioner, school board, etc), the easier it is to access these politicians and get a response.
Where do I get started as a citizen lobbyist?
We encourage you to make a list (with contact information) of all your representatives at every level, and take time each month to connect with at least one of them. This could be as simple as an email, phone call, or you can further that connection by following them on social media or signing up for their email list to learn of their next “community coffee hour.”
Unsure of who your legislators are? Here are links where you can find this information:
Find your County Commissioner: https://www.accesskent.com/Departments/BOC/members.htm
Find your State Representative: https://www.house.mi.gov/
Find your Senator: https://www.senate.michigan.gov/fysbyaddress.html
Become familiar with the legislative process
When you connect with them you want to be able to advocate for or against specific legislation, and to do that it’s a good idea to understand a little about the legislative process. First, not all bills that are introduced get voted on by the legislature, they have to make it out of sub-committee first. This is where bills are discussed and amended by members of that committee, and the majority of that committee has to agree to refer it out to the full body for a vote. Sometimes, they take no action at all, which is how a bill “dies.”
Find upcoming bills that matter to you
You can visit legislature.mi.gov, click on “bills” and search by keyword to find legislation that matters to you. Some example key words: “election, absentee, qualified voter file.” Once you locate a bill that is of interest, you can see its current status in committee, click on that committee to see its members, which will be majority Republican at this time. Then, you can contact these member directly to ask them to either refer the bill favorably or advocate against it. Members that are not on that sub-committee do not have any power over the bill at this early stage.
There is also an opportunity to help alert others relating to potential legislation changes. “Operation Watchdog,” a citizen monitoring group through Rescue Michigan, is seeking individuals to join their volunteer watchdog team. Members can designate what legislative issues are most important to them. Sign up here.
What if you don’t see any bills that address an issue that’s important to you?
Its time for your representative to hear from you. Any representative can introduce a bill. Its important to understand what is legally possible because legislation cannot violate the Michigan Constitution. That is why, for example, the legislature cannot ban mail-in voting without a constitutional amendment (a much more difficult process).
Additional helpful resources
GopHouse.org is a great resource to learn what legislation is currently being introduced by House Republicans. Remember, hundreds of bills are being considered at any given time, legislation that gets prioritized will often be items that the public demands. So politely push your state senator and rep in the right direction. Don’t be afraid or hesitant to contact and be direct with the people who work for you and get paid with your tax dollars. Finally, signup as a volunteer with WMAC and indicate your interest in being a citizen lobbyist. We’ll provide additional guidance and information regarding specific legislation that you can lobby for or against.
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